Something So Big

Friday, February 26, 2010

Flashback Friday

When the kids and I were visiting my parents on Sunday, Mom gave me a box full of my old clothes. In the box were chore clothes that miraculously did not smell like the barn anymore (a testament to Mom's good laundry skills!), my Charlie Brown shirt that Mom sewed for me to use during sophomore year musical (yes, 3 of us girls played boys' parts), and this amazing pair of Gitano jeans.

Ah, yes...the pinstripes, the high waist...the tapered's gotta be the 80s!!

The internet is an amazing thing. I just googled Gitano jeans and found this fun piece of information on Retroland:
For kids who couldn’t afford the top of the line designer jeans, there was always Gitano. Sold in K-Mart, Gitanos featured the designer jean cut, including the requisite embroidered logo across the back pocket. Their less expensive price tag was a bonus for moms as well. But in the world of designer jeans, how much you paid meant more than how you looked, and even though Gitanos had the right cut, they didn’t have the cache of Jordache, Sergio Valente and Gloria Vanderbilt. If you didn’t have a horse, a bull, or a swan on your butt, it didn’t matter than your jeans fit well – you just weren’t cool.

Wow, good thing I didn't know about designer jeans back then. The closest designer stores were probably 1.5 hours away from me, and I think there was only one girl in town who had the resources for those name brands. Meanwhile, the rest of us shopped at Kmart and garage sales. We were SO not cool!

Seeing the 11/12 sizing tag, I figured that meant 11/12 juniors and there was no way these jeans would ever fit me again. I tried them on, just for fun and nostalgia. Guess what? I actually got them up past my hips! I couldn't begin to zip them up, but hey I'll take the small moral victory of getting them on after 20 years' time any day. I pulled my shirt over them and walked into the living room to see if Mark would notice my fashion flashback.

"I got em on!!" I said, turning around.

"Oh yeah. I remember those!" he said.

The kids were not impressed. Why was Mom wearing painted-on pants? Mark and I had a brief laugh as we remembered the Seinfeld episode where Kramer can't get out of his tight-fitting jeans.

So literally, these jeans took us back to the late 80s and the mid 90s in just a few short moments. My very own little time machine!
(And no, I did not get my picture taken while wearing the Gitanos. The last post is enough gore for one week!)

Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. --Ecclesiastes 11:9 NLT

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It Gets Pretty Hairy Around Here

These pictures were taken a few months ago, but the situation remains the same!

Warning: the following photos may be scary and inappropriate (or "unappropriate", as Cy used to say) for young children or weak stomachs.

First of all, I must say that I love my Dyson. After 3 service trips on our last vacuum cleaner, we traded up for this baby. (the yellow one, not the cute one-she's an original acquisition ;)

This is what it looks like in a house with 5 girls.

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Told you it was scary.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do You Ever Really Know When You're "Done"?

Having children. Being the youngest in my family, our kids are on the younger end of the Engelke cousin spectrum. Naturally, since Mark is the oldest on his side, our kids are at the older end of the Siegert cousin spectrum. 32 cousins on my side; 12 cousins on his...but their side is just beginning to grow. Two baby cousins were born a few weeks ago, and we got the chance to meet one of them last Saturday.
In addition to my goddaughter Mady...

...who is friendly as can be (as you can see)...

Doug and Paula have a beautiful baby girl, Lauren Kathleen!

Here's a good look at her lungs. Cy loves to hold babies, and he did surprisingly well even though Lauren was a bit flustered at the time. (We'll cut her some slack; she was only 11 days old.)

Ironically, Mark was three hours east of here, visiting the other new Siegert cousin, Tage Gregory. He was missing our kids, and I think we both were missing the days of babies and toddlers. I realized that our house is not toddler-proof anymore when Mady started pulling wine bottles out of the side table! But I don't miss the constant needs of an infant, the lack of sleep, and feeding kids on the go (like this).

Technically, we don't have to be "done" having kids. I mean, some people wait until their late 30s and early 40s to start having children, so we're not too old in that sense. My mother was 38 when she had me, and her mother was 41 when she had what the heck, I'm "only" 39 right?! But as Mark reminds me, it would medically not be very wise to get pregnant again, as I have a heart condition (something-techycardia) that is aggravated/elevated when I'm pregnant (we discovered when I was carrying the twins and had to go on medication). Plus when we were expecting Wynne, we had a scare with a blood test that showed a good chance our baby was going to have Downs Syndrome. Having an amniocentesis was not my idea of a fun way to celebrate my 35th birthday, but it was reassuring to learn a few weeks later that Wynne was healthy. From that moment on, Mark and I knew that God had given us several healthy children (aside from the twins' asthma which has since become controlled) and that we should be very happy with what we have !!

Still and all, when you see your kids holding other people's kids (and they start talking to you about friend problems, pre-puberty stuff, and faith issues) can't help but want to hold onto them and somehow reverse the aging process. Just stop growing up for a while, that's all I ask!! I mean, look at our baby girl. Those chubby little legs are getting taller...

...those hands are learning to do so much more for themselves...

...and that heart is shining through in ways only God could have imagined, even before she came into existence. And so when I feel the twinge of sadness and wonder what it would be like to have another child, I hear God telling me to spend more time and love on the children that He has already entrusted to our care. They will be grown up and out the door before we know it!

I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.--Isaiah 46:3-4

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Much-Needed Break

I think most people around here (Midwest) are getting tired of winter and are ready for spring. Thank goodness for the Winter Carnival!

The community and school "character education" team put together a fun Saturday afternoon for families last weekend, and it was a much-needed break for my family, to be sure. Since I am on the Vacation Bible School planning committee, we thought it would be a great opportunity to get some early exposure for VBS and possibly register a few families.

The kids and I were flying solo this past weekend, as their dad was out of town visiting learning new training techniques and visiting his brothers' families. Given the cabin fever (a nice term for pointless arguing) going on at our house the past few weeks, the carnival was a welcome distraction for a few hours!

Ally was the best helper I could ever ask for. She cut out pencil cards with me on Friday night, and she organized winners' prizes and participants' prizes into separate baskets. All of the kids helped me set up and tear down, but Ally was the go-to girl for running the booth so that I could check up on the other sibs on occasion.**

School, community, and university clubs and businesses sponsored booths ranging from golf putting to face painting. There was free food available, and my own group made quite a haul with prizes and soda pop. (I have a bowl full of stuff on the counter right now to prove it!)

The girls and I wore our VBS t-shirts to promote our booth, and I think we did fairly well in finally attracting kids to play musical chairs with us. Since our VBS is following a rock concert theme this year, I figured we needed a musical theme to our booth/activity. (Kinda wish we had Christian Guitar Hero, but oh well, this worked fairly well.)

The girls dove into the Family Center tub full of rainbow-colored pasta to make necklaces with our friend Astrid.

Move over, Lia Sophia!

There were fire house and drug dog demonstrations going on outside, a magician/balloon artist by the kitchen, and I'll estimate at least a dozen carnival booths. The crowd was steady for two and a half hours; not bad for a first effort!

I think that the most popular booth was Arlen and Dee Weber's face painting stand. Those two are so talented and put much detail into every design they do. Kids waited in line for several minutes there, but it was worth it!

Many thanks to the community action team who put this thing together. While Mark was getting a much-needed break from school/work, we were getting a much-needed break from winter boredom. (And Mom was getting a much-needed break from cooking and refereeing!) A win-win-win situation, to be sure.

**50% of these pictures include Short Legs; 20% include the Chickens; 10% include the Big Kids. Note the exponential decrease in surveillance/photographs as age increases. There's probably a mathematical equation for this aspect of parenthood. Good or bad? normal? unfair? Points to ponder...

But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.--Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Favorite Brother

Dan, Tim, Ken, Dad, Brian & Brad a few years back

I have 5 brothers, so it's hard for me to pinpoint one as my favorite. They each have played a role in my life, in various seasons of my life. My brother Brad is 16 years older than me, so I really don't remember much about him while growing up. I would say that he was always my favorite brother to go and visit, because my favorite memories of him were piling into the car and driving 3+ hours to Little Chute, Appleton, Wilton--the places of his early work and married life. Getting to go to another state to his wedding in Red Wing, Minnesota and celebrating my 8th birthday up there --that is another favorite memory.

Brian has always been my favorite brother for adventure. Definitely not my favorite brother to have babysit my sisters and me (vague memories of cigarette butts placed in sleeping mouths and having our hair pulled...ack!), but favorite brother for fun and adventure. Brian was the first one to show a wild, independent side (or so it seemed), to paint his bedroom black with a big white butterfly and voodoo mask on the first convertible ride in his car...the brother who gave you neat Christmas presents (Lincoln logs and a homemade sandbox) and souvenirs (colorful shells in a plaster base from his road trip to Florida). He's also my godfather, and we taught Sunday School and sang in the church choir together for a few years, so there are favorite memories there as well. Brian is my go-to brother for carpentry help or consultation, and his heart is as big as anyone's.

Ken was my favorite protector. He was my big buddy growing up, since by the time I was a preschooler and old enough to remember, he was the oldest sibling still living at home. Ken teased me, taught me funny jokes and sayings, and coveted my little bed--often taking naps with me. Eleven years older than me, Ken was the big brother I looked to for protection and rides to school. He was also a master tickler, popcorn maker, and Monopoly player.

Tim is probably everybody's favorite brother in the sense that he is a super-nice guy. Sweet, kind, patient, and slow to anger. He was (and still is) my favorite brother to work with, as he never yelled at me when I made mistakes. He taught me how to feed calves, hook a worm, catch a fish, hunt for raccoon, and whistle. We share similar stubby thumbs and a deep, quiet faith in our Lord. (Mine is not so quiet anymore, but you get the picture.) He taught me how to love dogs, especially his coon hound Robbie, who was part of our family for 16 wonderful years. Even now, Tim is the brother who shows the most warmth and care for the kids and me, always with a hug and a peck on the cheek. Uncle Tim.

Dan is my favorite brother to laugh with. I didn't think he was so funny when he picked on me growing up (eight years older), but he lightened up once he was older and focusing more on wrestling, friends, and girls. Dan can use his sarcasm, facial expressions, and weird noises to make a whole room erupt. He is definitely a people-person, which is why I think he's so successful in his career as a banker/loan officer. He and Brian tend to "team up" (and sometimes "one-up") in the joke department!

My daughters, in contrast, have only one favorite brother. Given their close ages (all are within 2 to 5 years of each other), it is no surprise that the "my favorite" feeling is fleeting and hops from sibling to sibling on any given day. The love-hate relationship between Wynne and Cy reminds me the most of my early childhood days with brother Dan, as he would tease me relentlessly just as Cy does to his baby sister.

One minute she is giggling and screaming in bliss, and the next minute she is screaming in pain or anger. Big brothers know which buttons to push.

Being younger than Ally, Cy has a different relationship with her. He really looks up to her and cares about her opinions of him (still; ask me again when they're teenagers). Cy and the twins, on the other hand, fight more than get along at this point. (I think--and hope--it's because they're only 2 1/2 years apart and at that age where they get on each other's nerves!) But being 5 1/2 years older than Wynne, there is enough of an age gap there to be a true "big brother" and still think "my little sister is pretty cute". So Cy and Wynne are, for the most part, buddies. She looks up to him and is willing to play Transformers or wrestling with him, and he gets a kick out of teaching her big (usually inappropriate) words and watching her just be a preschooler. No threats, no rivalry, just enjoyment of each other's company (until she breaks his toy or he goes too far with the teasing).

The brother-sister bond. I'm so thankful that my kids get to experience it, and I pray that they grow up to really appreciate each other. I wish I had more time to be a sister again! (Perhaps that's why I so enjoy working on our family website or making those weekend phone calls.)

I think it's okay to play long as you're willing to switch 'em up once in a while.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.--1 John 4:7-8

Monday, February 15, 2010

Singing, Eating, and Sledding - Our Own Version of the Winter Olympics

Yesterday was one of the best Valentine's Days in memory. The children sang at a local nursing home for Sunday School, handing out homemade Valentines to each resident. If hearing young and old, energy-filled and wheel-chair bound join together for "Jesus Loves Me" doesn't warm your heart, I don't know what will. (I didn't take my camera with me, but here's a sampling of homemade Valentines that my kids gave to Mark and me.)

The neat thing about the kids' Valentines was that the four in school used their money to purchase little candies, erasers, and key rings at the 6th grade school store for us. And the kid who isn't in school yet gifted me with the basket of dominoes, wrapped in a tiny pink doll blanket. Can you say SWEET??

After another awesome morning at church (have I ever mentioned how much I love our church?), we came home to our traditional "fancy dinner" on Valentine's Day. I made a raspberry cream pie on Friday and prepped the baked potatoes on Saturday. Ally and I made heart-shaped cream cheese mints, and she designed this festive menu:

Since it was Sunday, Mark and I decided to move the supper up to dinner (that's why the curtains are down to evoke the "dark atmoshere" for candlelight). We get out the real china and silverware for this. Mark grilled the steaks, and it was a real treat!

With classical music playing in the background, the kids actually use manners and are calm for a meal. See?

The aftermath of a fancy dinner!

A few hours later we went sledding at Mount Kilimanjaro.

Okay, I exaggerate. It's the famous Pickard Hall hill over at the local university. It's steep and it's fast, Ally soon found out!

If you don't believe me, just ask Cy. These two shots were taken in succession before he it an icy mud patch and wiped out!

Here's a view from halfway up. Shae blew out a tire (snow tire, that is) on that icy mud patch I was talking about (on the right, down from the dip). Thank goodness no one was hurt!

Mark and I didn't have to push the kids at all, that's how fast the hill was. Our main job was to hold onto the sleds until the kids were ready!

Lest you think we are senseless parents, we only let Wynne slide down from halfway up the hill. (Plus we went to a safer hill later in the afternoon.)

I tried really hard to photograph the sledders as they approached me, but I just wasn't fast enough. (I know, I know--I need to get some training in sports photography.) Before we left the big hill, a college kid came and showed us some pretty cool flips on his snowboard. That, coupled with 3 wipe-outs and one torn sled, humbled us into moving to a different hill.

Before we left the big hill, Mark slid down it once and figured he was going about 50miles an hour. Just think - the Olympic lugers and bobsledders are going 90 mph!! Incredible.
All the same, I think we'll stick with southwest Wisconsin sledding. I kinda like my kids and want to keep'em for a while.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.--1 Corinthians 13:2

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Perfect Match

I've been wanting to blog about our socks for a few weeks now. Valentine's Day weekend seemed like the perfect time to finally get it done!

I lost count at 61. There is a growing number of lost socks which I keep adding to after almost every laundry cycle. Back when I was dating Mark, I remember watching his grandma sit on the floor at his mom's house every weekend, trying to match mounds and mounds of socks. At that time I said to myself, "How can anyone lose track of THAT many socks?? I mean, how hard is it to keep a pair of socks together from washer to dryer?"

Oh, my foolish ignorance. That was pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-load-of-laundry-every-day-or-drown. Now I have been humbled and reduced to this. And truly, I don't have a very good excuse. I mean, my mother-in-law dealt with primarily white athletic socks...and here I sit with all kinds of colors and sizes. I should be able to find the perfect match for every sock, right?

As it turns out, I am a terrible Matchmaker. My husband thinks that all women have this burning desire to couple everyone off for the "happily ever after". He also thinks that I am a terrible Matchmaker. And he's right. After three crash-and-burns in this area, I swore off matchmaking in 2001. (Yes, I remember the date because I wrote it on the back inside cover of my Bible!) Mark reminded me of that fact just this morning as I lamented how to get two people I know and love "together"--I say just as friends, but Mark insists that I expect something more (dating and marriage). I don't know anymore. Is there really only "one perfect mate" out there for everyone on this planet?

I used to think that we were meant for one and only one person. My true love. And now, as I delve into God's Word more and try to figure out what He wants for me, I realize that is pretty selfish, humanistic thinking. This is not to say that I no longer think my husband is my "one and only", because I still believe that he is, with my whole heart. But it's not about me and what I think is best for me. It's about God and what He wants for me, and that all starts with a relationship that puts Him first. #1. I remember hearing the pastor at our wedding talk about having Christ be part of our marriage, and she was very right on all points but one. He's not a partner with us; Jesus must be #1, above us and leading us. If both spouses don't put Him first, then all else will eventually go to pot. (Case in point: every divorce and troubled marriage out there.)

Pastor Matt Chandler* of the Village Church at Flower Mound, Texas, talks about the "You complete me" scene between Tom Cruise and Renee Zelwigger in the movie "Jerry Maguire". He calls that idea of people having only one perfect person in this whole world who can complete them--and I quote from his message--"a steaming pile of garbage". Pastor Chandler points out that his wife, Lauren, is the perfect person for him because God joined them in marriage, not because of anything he or Lauren did. Matt goes on to say,

"You see, in this idiot ideology that we’ve created with our movies, if one person marries the wrong person, doesn’t that jack it up for everybody? Because that means if Lauren is not my girl and I married her anyhow, that means I married someone else’s perfect one, which means they’re forced to marry someone else’s perfect one, which now means they’re forced to marry someone else’s perfect one. And so if you just do the little map, someone married someone 700 years ago married the wrong guy, and now we’re all in trouble.

This is a foolish, ridiculous idea. I’m just a man, and Lauren is just a girl. Lauren cannot complete me, cannot fulfill me, cannot make sense of my world and to expect her to is to put pressure on her that she will be unable to carry...which will create in me an anger towards her for not doing what she was never designed to do... So when a woman says, “This man will complete me. . .this man will make sense of my world. . .this man will make me know who I am. . .", you are putting weight on the man that he will be unable to sustain and it will only be a matter of time before he develops hobbies to get out from under that expectation. He cannot carry it. Put your hope in God, not men. We’re sinners. Which means sometimes on accident or sometimes on purpose, we’re (husbands) going to fail you and wound you. Don’t ask us to be more than we were designed to be; we will fail you. Put your hope in God, not in external beauty and not in men."

Sorry this is long, but that commentary just blew my mind. In light of thousands of passages in the Old Testament (our separation from God and His plan to join us back together) and the New Testament (calling Jesus the Bridegroom and His church the Bride), I couldn't say it any better than Matt Chandler just did. No one PERSON can complete me. God created us with a hole in our heart that can only be filled by Him. Some of us spend our entire lives trying to fill that hole with other people and things, looking for our "perfect match". It's a selfish way to look at life. (Who can help me? Who can complement me? Who can balance me out? Who can put up with me? Who makes me feel good? Who can love everything about me? Me, me, me, me, me.)

So maybe God wants us to settle for someone who isn't what the world would define as "our perfect match".

Maybe God's idea of the "perfect match" is to put Him first and let Him do the matchmaking. Lean into Him and ask for His help in smoothing out our "bumps"... our dirty thoughts and mending the holes in our hearts.

(Funny how a sock post turned into so much more! Crazy how my mind works.) The best pairs out there are truly people who put their partners first, which is an act of servanthood modeling the work of Jesus Christ. God puts us first, so why should we do any less? He is the Ultimate Matchmaker.

Now if I could just get Him to do my laundry!

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God...In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. --1 Peter 3:1-4, 7 NLT

*Pastor Chandler is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for a malignant brain tumor. If you are so inclined, please pray for Matt and his family. May his brilliant mind which passionately seeks the Lord continue to stay bright and strong, as he continues to preach the Good News to God's glory!